Second Sign jumpstarts with "That's The Bass" (with Norman Cook), which is, well, all about the bass. Pounding Fatboy Slim-style beats are carried on a wave of electronica, and certainly set the pace. What makes that tick over is the house track "Give Me Your Love", with Hannah Robinson' silky vocals finessing the energetic beats. Perhaps even better is the "Valentino Kanzyani Earresistible Mix", which has a more traditional house beat, allowing the vocals greater scope, and a brilliant Latin drum sound in the middle. But before moving onto that, Cox gives us the infectious beat-building sound of "Room 713", with cool synthesized vocal samples underneath.
This leads seamlessly into what is easily one of the album's highlights - the Phats and Small mix of "If I Fall (Would You Let Me?)", featuring Onallee. The intro is titillating and it just gets better from there, as the incredible house/techno-style beat and prodigious use of synth is lifted to another level by Onallee's richly textured voice. The Drum and Latin version at the end is just as good, although lighter and more up-tempo - drum 'n bass meets Cafe Havana.
Amazingly, the album moves into almost total techno territory with On Fire's hardcore beat, before transitioning to the occasionally disco-like and completely hip-shaking groove of "Ain't It Funky Now?" Cox then moves into more intense territory again with a relentless, harder version of Dirty Bass (with Christian Smith), followed by It's The Machines - a percussion-laden track with a hypnotically repetitive vocal.
"Vibes of Energy" (sic) is a refreshing no-vocals track that has ambient synth overlaying sometimes jungle-like drumbeats, and it sounds surprisingly good. On the other hand, "Open Book" (a Roni Size collaboration) is a speedy little electronic ditty that's not as good as you would expect. But this is more than made up for with the awesome drum 'n bass beat of "Got What You Paid For!", with the punk-rock vocals of Saffron (from Elastica) adding an inspired touch.
Some might say that Carl Cox's Second Sign can't decide what it wants to be, that it seems schizophrenic, eccentric, mashed. Luckily, that doesn't make much of a difference to the music. In fact, the best thing about Second Sign is its diverse range, because it creates an excellent representation of a DJ who has run the entire gamut of dance music. And it makes the album essential for the dance connoisseur, yet also accessible enough for those who haven't listened to much Carl Cox before.
Although, after hearing this, you'll certainly want more of this legendary DJ.
- Amanda Whitehouse
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